Editorial: Jonathan Pollard Deserves Better

Hamodia - May 20, 2005

If the information Pollard passed to Israel was so critical, why isn't Israel doing more to get him freed; and if it isn't then why is the United States punishing him so disproportionately?

The "scandal" that has preoccupied the Israeli media in recent days relates to reports of strained relations between Israel's ambassador to Washington and his boss, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. While such reports do not bring great honor to the Israeli diplomatic corps, the real scandal is that Israel's official representative in Washington paid a visit to Jonathan Pollard this week - the first such visit in the 20 years Mr. Pollard has been sitting in prison.

Tuesday's meeting between Danny Ayalon and Mr. Pollard was said to be tense. It's impossible to blame Mr. Pollard (an avid reader of HAMODIA, who has on more than one occasion donated to terror victims featured in "Profiles of Courage") for being bitter. He feels betrayed by the United States which handed him a sentence unprecedented in harshness, and by Israel, which appears to have done little to gain his release.

It's difficult to understand why he is still in prison. If the information Pollard passed on was so critical, why isn't Israel doing more to get him freed; and if it isn't then why is the United States punishing him so disproportionately?

Every day that Jonathan Pollard sits in Butner Federal Prison in North Carolina is an injustice. He committed a crime in passing top-secret papers he had access to in his work in US naval intelligence, but he has more than paid for it. On average, spies working for U.S. allies receive 4 to 7 years in jail.

It is also important to understand that his intention was never to harm US interests, but rather to save lives in Israel. Indeed, it is believed that the information he provided helped Israel prepare for the Iraqi missile attacks in the first Gulf War.

Mr. Pollard had good reason to be disappointed with Tuesday's meeting. He had expected the Israeli envoy to discuss practical steps to facilitate his release.

Instead, he got what he termed an "an empty gesture," a two-hour meeting of little substance. That has to be a bitter pill to swallow for a man who has waited 20 years to meet the official representative of the country for which he gave up so much.

Mr. Pollard has watched as the Israeli government succeeded in gaining the release of its agents in Cyprus, Jordan and Switzerland, and must have wondered why it couldn't do the same for him. What about that "special relationship" that American and Israeli officials speak of so frequently?

He has watched as Israel made one painful concession after another for "peace," releasing thousands of Palestinian prisoners - with America's blessing - and can't understand why his own name hasn't appeared somewhere on a list of prisoners to be released.

Incredibly he has the strength of character to not want his freedom at any price. His wife told Ambassador Ayalon that he does not want to be released as part of a deal to advance the Disengagement. He does not want to gain his freedom, even after 20 years of being incarcerated with the worst elements of society, if it means that 8,000 people are uprooted from their homes.

The diplomats have a standard excuse to explain why this issue has dragged on so long. "It's an extremely sensitive and complicated issue," said Mr. Ayalon, adding that "after 20 years he should be released for humanitarian reasons."

One thing is certain. Because he is weakened by reports of the rift with his bosses in Jerusalem, Mr. Ayalon can hardly be effective in working for Jonathan Pollard's release. If the ambassador and the foreign minister can't work out their differences for the sake of Jonathan Pollard, that would be another unfair blow to him.

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